Reds, Whites and Rosés from Unexpected Locales
Many wine regions become legendary for a certain color of wine. You think “white” from the Loire Valley, Austria or New Zealand and “red” from Argentina or the Southern Rhône. But the underappreciated, counterintuitive color—a Sancerre rosé or an Austrian red—often delivers a pleasant surprise.
France offers the most case studies of color specialization, and people are often stunned to find that wines come in other colors. Bordeaux has terrific whites especially from Pessac-Léognan and Graves, the white Bordeaux AOCs. Early in my wine-writing career, I sampled a precious first-growth Bordeaux, a Haut-Brion, with a collector. In my article, I mentioned that we had sipped Haut-Brion. The collector called to point out I had neglected to note it was a white Haut-Brion, which is much rarer. Châteauneuf-du-Pape blanc is another unexpected pleasure from a perceived red region. Made from blends of southern Rhône varieties or from the single-variety Roussanne, Châteauneuf-du-Pape in its white incarnation is the cognoscenti’s choice.
Unlike the Burgundy region where one expects both white and red Burgundy, the Loire Valley is thought to be quintessentially white. A few exceptions: Chinon AOC in Touraine is an oasis of red in a sea of white. Made from Cabernet Franc, Chinon is a medium-bodied wine with bright fruit and spicy flavors. Another, smaller red enclave in central Loire is Châteaumeillant, making juicy, food-friendly wines from Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir. And from Sancerre in the eastern Loire, considered the pinnacle of minerally whites, there’s also Sancerre rouge and rosé, both made from Pinot Noir with their distinct personality coming from the region’s chalk, limestone and flint soils.
Although Austria signals whites, recently, red Blaufränkisch from Burgenland, south of Vienna, is getting wine-world attention. It’s savory, spicy and complex with mineral and black fruit flavors.
Below the equator, two countries are famous for wines of a certain color—New Zealand for Sauvignon Blanc and Argentina for Malbec. Now savory Pinot Noir is thriving on New Zealand’s South Island and becoming the country’s new calling card. Argentina evokes those deep-purple Mendoza Malbecs, but there’s lovely white Torrontés from the Salta region that smell like a garden of sweet flowers.
Then there’s Jura's yellow wine (vin jaune)—a white made like a red masquerading in golden yellow. There are even orange-hued wines from Slovenia, Italy and Georgia. I urge you to try a region’s underappreciated color, you are in for a colorful surprise.
Les Hauts de Smith Blanc 2013 ($30)
Hailing from Pessac-Léognan in Bordeaux, this second wine of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, a Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux, is rich on the palate with mango, apricot, acacia floral and flinty notes.
Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2014 ($63)
From one of the oldest estates of the Southern Rhône, an old-vine blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and others, has complex and expressive white peach, pear and pastry notes and a long floral finish.
Marie de Beauregard Chinon 2014 ($20)
A 100-percent Cabernet Franc from the Saget family (winemaking in the Loire since 1790) is intensely flavorful with blueberry, pepper, vanilla and coffee notes,
a medium body and integrated tannins.
Henri Bourgeoise Chateaumeillant Solissime 2013 ($15)
From the Domaine Bourgeoise (in its 11th generation in the Loire), this Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir blend from tiny Châteaumeillant AOC is charming with a light body, refreshing acidity and bright tart cherry flavors.
Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre Rosé 2014 ($23)
This domaine is in the small-producer portfolio of Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. It’s an enchanting rosé, made from Pinot Noir, with floral, citrus and peach aromas.
Weingut Familie Priele Ried Johanneshöhe Blaufränkisch 2013 ($23)
In Austria’s North Burgenland, the Prieler family produces some of the finest Blaufränkisch, which exhibits blackberry, black cherry and spicy pepper flavors and a nice minerality.
2014 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir Marlborough ($18)
From the New Zealand region much celebrated for its Sauvignon Blanc comes this nicely structured, red-purple Pinot Noir with vivid red berry and blackberry flavors, a touch of licorice spice and soft tannins.
Terrazas de los Andes Torrontés Reserva ($15)
From the Salta region with vineyards high in the Andes, Torrontés has perfumed aromas of white rose and passion fruit, white peach and lychee notes—a perfect pair for Asian cuisine.
Ribolla Gialla 2008 ($40)
Orange-wine expert Stanko Radikon makes this unique wine in Fruili-Venezia Giula near the Slovenian border. The white grapes are from 50-year-old vines. Aged in oak, the wine has floral, apricot, nut and spicy aromas and excellent acidity.
A version of this article appeared in the February 2016 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Color Blind.